This past weekend was my biggest race yet. It was the race to end all races. It was... dun dun dun... FREE STATE (echo echo echo)... OK, I know humor is not always my strong point but it made me chuckle. The week leading up to Free State I was a mess, complete basket case, wondering what the hell was wrong with me. Why did I sign up for a 100K? Why did I convince Charlie and Travis too? Why did I let Brian? UGH! Then multiple people told me to stop worrying about everyone else and worry about my race. It helped but still the thought of Free State sent me into cold sweats. Friday came and we loaded up the car because we were staying by where the race was and we were going to help out at packet pick up the night before. I asked to leave work early that day because I knew we had a lot to get done the night before and I knew I was going to make myself crazy. That night I could not sleep, thought of sugar plums did not dance in my head. Instead thoughts of being stranded in the woods without a head lamp haunted me a long with three little letters D-N-F. This is where I should have inserted DUN DUN DUN. So 230pm rolls around at work and I leave a dust trail as I run out of work. I go and pick up Brian, and were off. We head straight to Gary Gribbles in Lawrence to help with packet pick up. We walk in and its Mel and Coco working packet pick up and that's a good thing. Mel is funny and good entertainment. She is a constant at most races and lends a big hand, and always is smiling and encouraging. We grab our packets, Charlie's, and Travis, and we help hand out some other packets. Brian tries to convince multiple people to up the anty. They all seem to think hes nuts. Then one gentleman walks in (yellow visor).
This gentleman is from Australia and always seems to have a great sense of humor at every race that I talk to him at. When he comes up I ask where his dog his, I thought he was another runner who had a boxer brindle also and he looks at me like I'm crazy. Not that this is anything new. Then Brian remembers him from one of the winter races we helped out. Brian asks him to do the 100K, he says no he thinks he will stick with the 40 miler. He then proceeds to ask Brian what his longest training run to date was and Brian replies 21 miles. I think his jaw dropped to the floor and he told Brian he was bloody crazy. He was horrified but Brian fed off it and if it got him threw the race then it was good. Brian, Mel and myself talked with him for a bit about the trails to shoes. At one point Mel and I write messages to runners we know on the back of the bib to encourage them (Mindy still gets the prize), and before long packet pick up was CLOSED. We leave to go get dinner and we text Charlie and Travis because they were rooming with us at the hotel the night before. We eat and head to the hotel, Charlie and Travis will be there about midnight. We try to relax and I check in with Heather and Katie. Heather was going to pace me lap 2 and Katie lap 3. All is well. Charlie and Travis arrive after weave been asleep and I'm sure Charlie is going to be hyper as hell. Its Charlie and so the first thing I say to him is if you don't go to sleep I will beat you. Well he must have been REAL tired or scared of my massive guns because he went to sleep. We hear Travis tell Charlie to stay on his side of the bed and we chuckle and doze back off. Before we all know it, its 4am and we need to get up. I think Charlie and Brian both groaned when the alarm went off. I instantly seem to pop up and dash for the bathroom because I was not going to fight with three boys over it. I'm dressed, Charlie has his "coordinating" outfit on. Travis and Brian get dressed, then for some reason we ask Charlie if hes wearing a hat to start off. He tells us no. I'm going to have gel in my hair. I think we all stare at him like he's nuts. Why is Charlie doing his hair for a 62 mile run? Because its Charlie.... I really can't explain but he makes running life interesting. Then Brian and I are throwing last minute stuff in our drop bags and ask the guys if they have bug spray, Travis I think said no. Charlie pulls out a lovely little silver spray bottle from Burt's Bees and informs us it smells like melons..... 2nd time where Brian and I just stare for a second and start laughing. I tell Charlie melon is not a manly smell, that is going to attract bugs not discourage them. He tells me it smells good. I'm not sure how long this banter goes back and forth but eventually Charlie and I have our hair done for the race and we all leave for Starbucks. I think someone takes Charlies man card but he gets it back after running 62 miles.
We pull into Starbucks, Brian and I had checked into this before we even checked into the hotel, and I run up to the door to see what time they open. It says 530. Its 526. I run back and tell the boys we have a few minutes and then when 530 rolls around Brian gets out to knock on Starbucks door to get them to open it only to find out its open. Damn coffee houses. We all get our coffee and go back to the car and Charlie pulls his go pro. Go pro is a little camera you were on your head. Well he turns it on and starts his narration but hes talking like the captain in star trek when hes making his log. Dramatic effect maybe? I don't know but I know Brian, Travis and I give him the crazy look. About twenty minutes later we pull into the race area and its around 6am. I hop out at the porta potties because as usual I have to go again, and they park. We all start pulling out our bags and watching others pull up that we know. Dick Ross is taking pictures as always...
|Erin and Brian|
|Charlie, Travis and myself|
|This is take number 2 of Charlie and Travis, when you see 1 you will know why.|
We all make our way to where everyone is gathering and see our friends and try to calm nerves. Travis up'd from 40 miles to 100K. I went to the bathroom at least one more time. Dick Ross comes over and tells Brian he has singlets so Brian goes running to get one. Travis looks a little confused and I found out later he thought that Brian was getting one of those wrestling singlets and wearing it. I cant blame him, its something Brian would do but no just a race singlet.
|Brian, myself, Travis, Charlie and Bryan Hay|
Eventually Ben Holmes says its time, gives us brief instructions on how to get to the trail and what to watch for, and were off.
|Charlie and his go pro...|
|Myself, Brian and Travis|
|Travis and Brian|
|Charlie - I'm not really sure what hes doing here. Not sure if I want to know. I do wonder if he was doing his "video" voice while running.|
|Travis (I think he was contemplating going surfing later)|
We get to the first manned aid station at Lands End and I look for Heather but don't see her, I fill my water bottle back up, grab pb&j tortilla, a salt tab and I'm getting ready to take off when Heather grabs me for a quick hug. She asks how I'm feeling and I tell her I feel great. I holler at Brian, Charlie and Travis and tell them I'm going and Brian heads out with me. Charlie and Travis say they didn't hear me and it was crazy at the first aid station. I take off and Brian and I run together for about one minute. Then I'm by myself and enjoying being away from the pack. I have no idea where everyone is but its nice. Then I hear someone coming up behind me...
I had talked to him briefly when we first started running and then he peeled off the trail with the other guys and when he caught up we start talking about how nice it is to be away from the pack. We introduce ourselves and he says his name is Aaron, I tell him my name and he says that will be easy to remember because that is his wife's name. We talk kids, jobs, running and before I know it we are at the Army Corp of Engineer aid station. We passed Brian Brooks on the way up who was smiling as always, and Larry Long who was just running away happy as can be. First to get to the aid station you have to run up road and then do this evil loop which is maybe a mile but it just seems evil. We'll call it the black hole. We run it and go through the aid station, and Aaron and I head back out together. We've got a good pace and were talking military because he was in and where we've been stationed. Before I know it we are at Lands End (you pass through Lands End twice each loop) and I check in with Heather and were off. Before I know it Charlie goes flying by us grinning minus the camera and looking like the cat who ate the canary. I forget what I yelled at him but he is off. I'm looking at him one minute and then the next I fall. It was a fall that was reminiscent of Lake Perry. Only this time I don't lay there, Aaron helps me up and we take off again. I didn't even assess what was hurting which was good. I am a little upset that GU Chomps and gummy bears are covered with dirt. Travis catches up to us and runs with us, Aaron and I talk and before I know it - its 4 hrs and 12 minutes in and we are done with the first loop.
Charlie is changing clothes and Deb is getting ready to go back out with him. I go to the bathroom, grab food, Jen gets me wipes to clean off because I still have dirt from my fall on me. Fill up the water bottle, and Aaron and I take off. We talk of if we can keep this pace we could finish in 12 -13 hours. To me that would just be unbelievable. But slowly I start to trail behind. Travis isn't far behind me and I catch glimpses of him and glimpses of Aaron in front of me but my energy level is dying. I did for GU Chomps and eat and run and I get back to the lake. This is the cool version of what happened in my mind at the lake. A giant man eating black dragon hops out from under a rock. We proceed to sword fight, don't ask where the sword came from, its just there. I scream and he flies away after we banter and I name him Marty since Marty was not with us that day. Now here's what really happened a large black lizard creature comes out from under a rock with a crazy look in his eye, I scream and run away. I ran off so fast I was scared that I didn't end up on the right path even though by the third loop I realize the path was hard to miss. After my little run in with the lizard I slow down and try to get to Lands End to get to Heather so maybe if any more angry lizards come out me she can fight them and it just doesn't seem to be coming up. I'm to the point where I wonder if I'm on the right path again but sporadic pink flags point the way. Finally after what seemed hours after my epic battle with Marty the dragon I get to lands end. Heather helps me retie my shoes, I eat, pop salt tabs, fill back up and we take off. I ask if shes seen Brian and she tells me his plugging along and we talk and all that. Then I get cranky because Heather is really happy and perky and excited. Me im hitting grump fest. I'm tripping and angry and I tell her I don't like her perkiness. Then I apologize immediately because that's not like me. I was straight being mean and well I needed smacked or whatever. Well settle for a brutal second lap. We slowly get to lands end again and go through the black hole. We see Deb and Charlie at the aid station, (I had seen Deb earlier and she had checked on me). Travis catches up, Charlie and I banter like brother and sister. I lean towards violent remarks when I'm cranky. I actually tend to sound like a drunken sailor. All of eventually take off together and slowly Deb, Charlie, and Travis pulls away. Heather makes the remark that Travis seems like he just wants it done. I finally hit my second wind and we start running for awhile, and then it goes to off and on. Then I start tripping on rocks. We get to Lands End again, I eat, drink and try to be merry. I did find however that when I'm running long races all I want is a coke. That is like the best damn thing ever. Every aid station that was my main focus. We take off again and I don't remember what happened but I trip and fall again but I manage to twist myself and fall in a decent spot that is not completely horrible but I bang my hip on a rock or tree stump. But Heather gets me up and going again. We eventually get to the end of Loop 2. I think the time was 9hrs and 30 minutes. I head straight for the bathroom again and then I clean up again and start eating and my trail nerd family is on me getting things. Heather is getting me a clean shirt, socks and shoes. Katie is checking to see if I'm ok and ready to go. I get love from a random golden lab or retriever and that helps. I get all prettied back up and head back out. Katie leads, then myself, and then Heather. I feel like a celebrity with body guards and I secretly dare Marty to make an appearance. Another gentleman joins us for a bit and were running and then this sound that sounded like Rosemary's baby from the womb come from my stomach. I groan. This is not happening. I tell Heather and Katie I got to go and I don't mean one. They look at me and look at the forest. I know I got a look like please no. Then the sound keeps growing and all I can see in my mind is pictures of people pooping themselves during runs. Its not pretty. Id so much rather get the name Pee pants or Piss Pants but not Poop Pants. The sounds grows louder and they both look at me and then Heather hands me wipes and I know. So I try to find a way to get back there to a spot, that is snake free, lizard free, not horrible and proceed to do my first poop in the woods. You know the old saying when a tree falls in the woods does anybody hear it. Well that day I was certain that everyone heard that debacle. TMI. I know. When I'm done I get a branch and dig a little whole to hide it and clean myself up and I feel better. Highly embarrassed but better. So we are off again. We get to the rocks and we for some reason end up talking about boys and Adam Levine and that carries us through to Lands End. Heather drops off there and Katie and I eat and take off. Heather and Katie are both great pacers. Heather is very by the book, she is going to make you eat, drink and be prepared. Katie is more eat something drink something, I'm not gonna coddle you lets go. So we are walking at first while I eat and did I mention there were cheese quesadillas. After 40 plus miles those were the best thing freaking ever invented to man. Katie finds flat spots and tells me to run before dark. We talk Adam Levine, music and what not. Before I know we are at the Corp of Engineers spot and the Black Hole. We finish the black hole, eat, drink and leave again. We head out and turn on head lamps on and somewhere between the next 3-5 miles the unspeakable happens. All I can say is, it involves a thorn bush and some other things. We will leave it at that. Or if you need information we will say Katie and I skipped through the woods and played with bunnies while listening to Adam Levine. Yes that sounds much better. Katie and I get through the incident and slowly get to Lands End and I grab a coke and gummies. Heather is happy and relieved to see me and says she will meet me at the Finish line. We take off for our last 3-4 miles. Those were the longest 3-4 miles of my life. At one point I try to give Katie a yellow gummy for a piggy back ride and I get a resounding NO. I always joke about getting a piggy back ride during long runs but I never intend on taking them. Katie and I see a bunny and I almost fall on my face again. I'm pretty sure it laughed but I could be delusional. Then about half a mile from the end we see a head lamp and hear Heather. That was the next to best moment in that race. Heather tells us how far we have to go and runs back to tell everyone were coming. Katie gets a shuffle out of me a little more and then we hit the gravel path that lead us down to the trails. I think when we hit I almost cried. I'm pretty sure I just stared at Katie also. But then I run, maybe it was a shuffle but it felt like I run. I hear people cheeering and it feels like I just won the Boston. I'm told to follow the head lamps which after 62 miles is so hard. Brian hugs me. Ben gives me a big hug, Mel whips out her camera and I am handed the belt buckle.
And also a coke.Terri Edwards (who I kept randomly looking for all day) hands me a bag full of her homemade cookies. Mel tries to give me oreos. But its all good. I got a belt buckle
This race was phenomenal. There were moments where I didn't think I could make it but friends,strangers, volunteers, all got me through this. This was a spectacular race. I will definitely be running it again. Things I learned, Marty the lizard is an a$$hole, my pacers were the best, and Charlie is way too hyper the day after a 100K. And never to speak of the "incident."